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The Armenian Genocide

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France Defies Turkey with Vote to Criminalize Denial of Armenian Genocide

December 22nd 2011

Europe Topics - french of turkish descent protesing genocide bill

Turkey has reacted angrily to a vote in the lower house of the French parliament making it a crime to deny that the mass killings of Armenians nearly a century ago was genocide. By way of background, some 1.5 million Armenians were killed during World War I by troops of the Ottoman Empire—Turkey’s predecessor. Most historians say that this was one of the 20th century’s worst massacres. It led to the creation of the term genocide and its application to the Nazis for the Holocaust. The Ottoman Empire committed the genocide via death marches, railroad cars, mass shootings, hangings, and atrocities so heinous as to cement the image of “The Terrible Turk” in the western mind.

Turkey, while acknowledging the loss of Armenian lives, says the death toll has been exaggerated and does not amount to genocide. It says the deaths were the result of civil war.

France’s new legislation would make it a crime punishable by a fine of nearly €45,000 ($59,000) and up to a year in jail for genocide deniers. It won overwhelming approval in the lower house and now goes to the French Senate for consideration. Supporters hope it will become French law by the end of February ahead of next year’s presidential and and parliamentary elections.

Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused French President Nickolas Sarkozy of pandering to the hundreds of thousands of French citizens of Armenian descent. Erdogan suggested the possibility of additional sanctions. Turkey commonly and openly threatens any nation that tries to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

France expressed regret about the Turkish reaction in a statement issued by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who called France and Turkey strategic partners. Both countries are members of NATO.

The draft legislation is general in nature, punishing those who deny any genocide recognized by the French state. A bill that would have criminalized specific denial of the Armenian genocide died in the French Senate earlier this year.

Relations between France and Turkey have been frozen for some time over French opposition to Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.

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